The Hot Box: A 47-Minute Whodunit
CAITLIN OUANO

Characters

DET. MILES MURRAY (I), lead detective on the case
JOHN REESE (R), partner
ELLEN ROSANO (D), partner
CAROLYN DANIELS (D), associate
MIKE MCCOY (R), associate; found the body
DONNA YANG (I), summer associate, former PI
LISA TADMOR (D), Reese’s assistant; stealing from him
MONICA JEFFORS (D), client

Several COPS and LAWYERS in the background to give the case a larger feel.


Stairs at Night

Prologue

A staircase. Night. JOHN REESE (50s), a partner with a Denzel-like benevolent presence, on his phone, rushes down.

REESE

Yes. Yes I’m taking the stairs… I don’t know, the elevators were full, it’s more discreet.

Suddenly, a GUNMAN with a mask, in black, strides by him, shoots him in the chest with a silencer, keeps walking as if nothing has happened.

Blackout.


Scene 1

The stage is totally black. Silent.

Lights up and:

A TUSSLE! The EMPLOYEES, shirts untucked, shirts unbuttoned, ties loose, are all yelling obscenities, pushing each other, and pulling hair out. Chaos reigns.

Three POLICE OFFICERS run in and break up the fight. DETECTIVE MILES MURRAY (40s-50s), authoritative but human, leads the break up.

Murray

Hey, hey hey! What the hell is going on here!

ELLEN ROSANO, a partner, steps forward.

Rosano

I’m very sorry Detective Murray it’s just that it’s late, it’s hot and—

Carolyn

And Mike is a sexist asshole!

Mike

What the FUCK Carolyn.

Murray

Okay okay, ladies and gentlemen, you are all legal professionals. Can we ask that you act like it?

Mike

If anyone shot Reese it’s Carolyn, she’d kill anyone to make partner.

Rosano

Mike go to hell. Detective Murray, we have to be in court tomorrow and now we can’t go home to sleep because you’re keeping us here under investigation.

Lisa

You’ve already interviewed all of us.

Murray

I understand. But we’re reexamining everything in light of new evidence. It would be helpful if you could talk about what Reese was working on—

Rosano

We can’t discuss our case with you. You know that.

Carolyn

We’re all under attorney client privilege, the defendant is one of your people, our hands are tied.

Mike

By “one of your people” she means cops. Pardon her rudeness.

Lisa

She knows that!

Male Employee

Shut up Lisa!

Arguments begin to erupt again.

Murray

Quiet! Quiet!

The LAWYERS start to close in on each other. MURRAY motions to his COPS, and they separate everyone again.

Murray

QUIET EVERYONE! Let’s keep the peace. We are examining new evidence now, we will release you in two hours. For the time being, return to your desks, and stay SIX FEET APART! Six feet. No more arguments this evening.

A beat. Everyone steps six feet apart. The AC clicks off.

Shit. Murmurs of discontent.

Mike

Was that the AC?

Murray

We are going to get right on that, everyone sit tight—

Female Employee

It’s the hottest day of the year!

Groans and shouts of discontent. Blackout.


Scene 2

The sounds continue. Lights up on DONNA YANG (20s), wearing a dark rose suit, and comfy trainers. Sits writing in a tiny notebook with a laptop in front of her. MIKE MCCOY walks in with his work bag.

Mike

Sorry I thought this was empty.

DONNA continues to write.

Mike

You’re the summer intern right?

Donna

Yes.

Mike

I’m a fourth year associate. (DONNA continues to write.) Can I have the room?

DONNA continues writing without looking up.

Mike

It’s Chu right?

Donna

Yang.

Mike

Wang?

Donna

Yang.

Mike

Yang. Why are you still working?

Donna

Figured I could use the time we’re stuck here.

Mike

Detective says it shouldn’t be much longer.

Donna

You were the one who found Reese, right?

Mike

Yeah. He was in shock in the stairs, I didn’t even think anything was wrong at first—

Donna

(intently) And did you hear anything?

Mike

What?

Donna

Did you hear a door slam? Anything to indicate when he’d been shot.

Mike

No.

A beat. DONNA stands.

Donna

You know something.

Mike

I— what are you working on in here?

DETECTIVE MURRAY enters with another COP and ROSANO.

Murray

Ah. Donna. How’s it going?

Donna

I think an hour should be sufficient.

DONNA slams her laptop shut.

Donna

It’s really amazing how much you can do with the Internet and a tiny book.

Mike

What is—

Murray

Donna is the compromise we’ve reached.

Donna

It’s really amazing how much you can do with the Internet and a tiny book.

Rosano

I would’ve preferred to have our own investigator work on it, but this is a reasonable compromise.

Mike

Wait, we’re having a summer intern investigate the case? She can’t even practice law.

Rosano

(under her breath) Or deliver the mail on time.

Murray

No she can’t. But she is a licensed PI.

MIKE looks at her in disbelief.

Donna

And I am subject to attorney client privilege because I work here.

Rosano

After an hour, we all go home.

Mike

And you trust this intern? She never speaks.

Rosano

No, I trust the fact she would be legally liable if she let the police know anything about Reese’s current case.

Murray

And we trust the fact that she’s worked as a PI and consulted with the police since she was eighteen.

Donna

It’s how I paid my way through college. Not all of us have trust funds.

Mike

Not all of us are diversity hires.

Rosano

That’s enough. Detective? Give Donna the rundown.

Murray

Reese left his office and went down the stairs at 7:00 P.M. Mike found Reese at exactly 7:15 P.M. We checked the security cameras three times. No one but Reese entered or exited between 6:45 P.M. and 7:15 P.M. other than Mike, who found him and called for help. The tape hasn’t been tampered with. The timecode is the same. Reese is in surgery now, we’ll know more in an hour.

Glass SHATTERS in the background. More fighting.

Murray

Why are people so on edge? I know they’re scared because a partner got shot—

Rosano

We’ve been receiving death threats over this Jeffords case for months.

Murray

You mean the one involving Officer Damon?

Rosano

The creep who sexually harassed our client after he pulled her over? Yes.

Murray

Allegedly. Innocent ’til proven guilty.

Mike

It’s freakin’ hot—

Donna

OK, Mike and I will be using this room.

Mike

Me?

Donna

I need help putting some pieces together. And you wanted to use the room.

Mike

To prepare for court tomorrow.

Donna

You’re not going to court tomorrow. I just called the judge, he said he suspended the case.

Rosano

(surprised) Really? I just spoke—

Donna

He gave me a different answer.

A beat.

Rosano

Forty five minutes, Wang.

Donna

Yang. And I only need thirty five.

The sound of fighting grows. MURRAY and ROSANO rush out.

Murray

(offstage) Six feet apart! Next person’s getting locked in their office!

Mike

Why isn’t he letting people go home? Ridiculous.

Donna

I had the same question. Perhaps we’re of a similar mind after all.

Mike

You know you’re my subordinate, right?

Donna

A subordinate with more investigative experience than you.

Mike

Okay…

Donna

You’re a lawyer and you have logic and reason. But I have intuition. And that can’t be taught.

Mike

Look. it’s hot. It’s night. It’s gross. And we’re all tired and crazy—

Donna

Why were you in Reese’s office five minutes before you found him?

A beat.

Donna

I was at my desk and saw you in his office. You retrieved something and then went downstairs.

Mike

You don’t know what you saw.

Donna

Detective Murray is disregarding protocol here. Typically everyone in a crime scene is allowed to go home after questioning, unless the police make an arrest. But he is keeping everyone here and giving me leeway to examine the case.

Mike

He said they have new evidence.

Donna

They can’t, the CSI have left.

Mike

The shooter could come back again. He’s still at large. Maybe he’s waiting to follow one of us home or—

Donna

Or maybe the shooter is still here.

A beat.

Mike

That’s ridiculous.

Donna

The majority of associates and partners here are flight risks. If they don’t have wealth, they come from it. Detective Murray is keeping everyone here because he wants to make an arrest in an hour.

The lights go out, except for…the light from DONNA’s notebook. Notes suddenly FLY from the notebook onto the screen! MIKE has to step out of the way. It pieces itself together, DONNA maybe configuring it with hand motions. A flurry of papers, hunches, and stickies. The office goes from a sleek meeting room to a hunch mind castle.

The board now looks like an FBI investigation combined with one of those Prezi presentation videos.

We zoom in on a photo of LISA.

Mike

Lisa is a suspect?

Donna

Detective Murray questioned her for a long time.

Mike

Because she’s his assistant. They probably needed a lot of information from her.

Donna

She’s been stealing from him. She’ll be here in a moment.

Mike

Since when have you known that?

Donna

Since the moment I met her. It’s not her. She’s the common scapegoat. But I need information.

Beat.

Donna

Your father was a Republican congressman right? This firm is roughly 66% liberal, 37% conservative, so I can place you—

Mike

Hold on, there’s no way of knowing what political party everyone is. And that has nothing to do with this. Reese’s big rule is no political talk. A good firm is an apolitical firm.

Donna

Nothing is apolitical. Not today.

Mike

Ok, Sherlock, keep it in your notebook.

Donna

Do you think Lisa is the shooter? Or has she been in the interrogation room for the past hour because she’s giving Detective Miles details to incriminate the shooter?

Mike

I really don’t know—

Donna

Was Reese going through something at home?

A beat.

Mike

I wouldn’t know.

Donna

He kept his personal life very private for a lawyer of his stature.

Mike

I agree.

Donna

I spotted as he went into the ambulance he didn’t have his wedding ring.

DONNA gets an old kitchen timer out of her bag, oddly.

Mike

Wouldn’t know anything about that. What are you—

Donna

I can’t start my investigation, until I can confirm that fact and find the shooter. Your friend’s shooter. Was John Reese going through a divorce?

Beat.

Mike

Yes.

DONNA pulls an envelope out of her jacket.

Donna

Mike McCoy, do you see this envelope?

Mike

Oh now we’re playing Clue. Weird evening.

He fans himself with his shirt. DONNA hands him a water bottle.

Donna

This envelope contains the conclusion of my investigation.

She tears a piece of paper from her notebook and places it in the envelope.

Donna

We’ll open it later tonight.

Mike

Why don’t you just tell the police who the shooter is? So we can all go home.

Donna

I will. I just have to confirm a few things. This’ll only take 47 minutes and eleven seconds.

DONNA sets a timer. LISA enters.

Donna

Lisa! Have a seat.

Lisa

(sits) Aren’t you the intern?

Donna

Summer associate. Why have you been allocating $300 from Reese’s account every week for his son’s Mandarin tutor? You fired the tutor ages ago.

Lisa

What? That’s—

Donna

Save it. I heard you fire the tutor over the phone because Reese’s wife told you to. But Reese’s statements say that $300 in cash is still taken out every week to pay the tutor.

Lisa

I— Am I seriously getting questioned by the intern? You screwed up my lunch order last week.

Donna

Did Reese ever find out?

A beat.

Lisa

No.

Mike

I’d answer the intern, she’s—

Lisa

Go to hell, Mike.

Mike

I— excuse me?

Lisa

(to DONNA) Why is he helping you out? Did the boys club make a deal with you?

Donna

He isn’t helping. He’s just a witness. Everyone’s a suspect. Including Mike.

Mike

I can’t believe you’d be dumb enough to steal from your boss.

LISA stands, throws a stapler at MIKE.

Lisa

Shut UP! Not all of us are Congressmen’s kids. You spoiled piece of shit.

DONNA picks up the stapler, puts it back on the table.

Donna

Why was John Reese going downstairs? He had nothing in his schedule.

Lisa

He had a private meeting.

Donna

With who?

Lisa

I already told the police everything I know.

Donna

Then you don’t mind me telling them about the stolen money?

Lisa

Wait. You can’t! I have— I can’t even get a new job— I—

Donna

I’m waiting.

A beat.

Lisa

John found out about the money. He said he wouldn’t say anything because I have a record. I stole a car when I was a teenager. So it’s hard for me to find a job, and if people found out I was stealing money, I would never get hired anywhere again. So he said I had to resign quietly in two weeks.

Donna

Why isn’t his private meeting on his schedule? Did you send him downstairs on a blind errand so he could be shot?

Lisa

I was in my office! I didn’t shoot him!

Donna

That doesn’t mean you couldn’t ask someone else to do it.

Lisa

I— Okay— He got some phone call from some anonymous source. They said they had video evidence for the Monica Jeffords case.

A beat. DONNA watches MIKE and LISA carefully.

Mike

Wait. Incriminating evidence?

Lisa

They didn’t say.

Mike

Would it incriminate the officer or Monica?

Lisa

I really don’t know, I—

Mike

What the fuck— why didn’t you ask?

Lisa

I don’t know. It’s not really my job. I know you have a problem understanding that.

Donna

(calming) So John Reese left his office to go meet this anonymous source? Does anyone else know that?

Lisa

Just me.

Lisa sobs.

Lisa

I didn’t shoot him, I was mad at him, but I’m just— I’m so stressed— I didn’t—

Donna

I don’t think you did it. I just needed to confirm why Reese left his office. One last question before you go.

Lisa

Yes?

Donna

Did you know Mr. Reese was going through a divorce?

Lisa

Uh…no. Wow. Really? I mean I knew he and his wife had been separated… But no.

Donna

Thank you. You can head out.

Lisa

So Mike’s still a suspect right?

Donna

Yes.

Lisa

I’m so glad a woman is in charge of this, you know? Even if you are a crappy intern.

Lisa leaves.

Mike

I feel bad for her.

Donna

Why? She’s from the Upper East Side. Her mother’s an oil heiress.

Mike

She tells everyone she’s from Brooklyn.

Donna

She’s not.

Mike

Wow. But. I don’t know if she hated Reese enough to kill him.

Donna

You’re assuming the shooter shot to kill. But what if they didn’t?

Mike

You think someone came into the building with a gun…to injure him?

Donna

There was only one shoulder wound. If the shooter had him alone, why not the head or the heart?


Scene 3

The law firm main room. EMPLOYEES are sitting apart from each other. Sweating. Hot. LISA reenters.

Male Employee #1

Where were you?

Lisa

Donna had to ask me about Reese’s schedule. She’s interviewing suspects.

Male Employee #2

Who’s Donna?

Female Employee #1

The intern. Wang.

Male Employee #2

Oh. The one who’s good at math?

Female Employee #2

Did you really just say that?

Male Employee #2

We have interns who are good at math.

Another hot battle starts.

Male Employee #1

Don’t even start Maya.

Female Employee #2 (Maya)

You asked a racist question in the middle of the firm!

Male Employee #2

I wanted to clarify which intern she was.

Male Employee #1

Why the hell is she even asking questions?

Female Employee #1

You know, Maya, you are being a little white savior sensitive.

Female Employee #3

The white boys don’t even need to defend themselves. They have you.

Male Employee #2

Donna’s the one who’s good at math right?

Female Employee #1

(to FME #3) Excuse me?!

Dissolve into bitter fighting.

Female Employee #2

I got kicked off the Monica Jeffords case because of this!

Male Employee #1

You didn’t belong on it!


Scene 4

DONNA looks at the powerpoint on the wall entitled “MONICA JEFFORDS CASE.” Two photos: MONICA and OFFICER PETER DAMON. The commotion continues at a low volume behind them.

Mike

Glad I’m not out there.

Donna

It’s likely more exciting.

Mike

(looking at the wall) These aren’t all the details of the case.

Donna

All the ones I deem necessary. Did I leave anything out?

As MIKE talks, lights dim, MONICA and PETER DAMON emerge onto an area above the stage with chairs. Silhouettes. A murky flashback. Maybe some smoke.

Mike

Peter Damon, an officer, pulled Monica over for drunk driving. She was drunk.

DAMON approaches the car.

Mike

For whatever reason, Damon had his body cam turned off as he approached the car. Said it malfunctioned. Monica said—

Blackout on DAMON and MONICA. We can’t see what’s happening.

Mike

He assaulted her.

Donna

And afterwards arrested her.

Lights back up on DAMON searching through the car, MONICA handcuffed on the sidewalk.

Mike

Apparently Officer Damon also found cocaine in the car and submitted it into evidence.

DAMON pulls out a bag of cocaine. Blackout. They exit.

Donna

Damon’s lawyers say that Monica is accusing him to distract from the drug charges. Monica says he planted the drugs.

Mike

Unfortunately, three years ago, when Monica was in college she also falsely accused her TA of sexual assault to get a higher grade. TA had an airtight alibi. Not a good look.

Donna

You helpfully found that discrediting information.

Mike

I did a background on her, yes. To see what the defense could dig up.

CAROLYN struts in.

Carolyn

Mike may as well get a check from Officer Damon for the work he’s done for his defense.

Mike

I’m very loyal to my client.

Carolyn

Go to hell Mike.

CAROLYN walks past him to sit near DONNA.

Carolyn

I’m happy you’re helping out on this. Interns always give a fresh look to—

Donna

How did you walk down the hall in heels without us hearing?

Carolyn

Uh— well you were, uh, talking.

Donna

We hear everyone else. Did you remove your shoes. Walk down the hall. And stand outside and listen to our discussion?

An awkward beat. MIKE sniggers a little.

Donna

Please sit.

DONNA takes a water bottle from under the table, puts it in front of CAROLYN. CAROLYN is perplexed.

Donna

Carolyn, you were working on Monica’s case trying to find more evidence right?

Carolyn

Yes. Reese was in charge. It felt like he and Mike and some of the other associates weren’t…giving it their best effort.

Donna

Not the Yale effort you would give.

Carolyn

Exactly.

Donna

You’d prefer a different attorney. One with more sympathy?

Carolyn

I thought Reese was sympathetic, he was just tied up with all this stuff in his divorce—

Donna

Why did you think that?

Carolyn

Well—

Donna

He wasn’t showing up to meetings? Unprepared for briefs?

Carolyn

No, no, I just—

Mike

He always showed up on time and prepared; you just said, Carolyn, it was a lack of evidence that was bogging the case down.

Carolyn

Reese didn’t believe the victim.

Donna

Carolyn, employees reported the divorce wasn’t affecting Mr. Reese’s work. In fact, other than Mike, no one even knew about the divorce. Myself included, and I know a lot.

Carolyn

Some associates have privileged information.

Donna

The ones who slept with Mike. Who knew about the divorce.

A beat.

Carolyn

What? I—

Donna

Unless you were going through Mr. Reese’s schedule and stalking his personal life, you really wouldn’t know about the divorce otherwise. Even his own assistant didn’t know.

Mike

Oh my God. That’s why you drunk dialed me? For info on Reese?

Carolyn

Donna, you know this, but Reese, who was a champion of an inclusive workplace culture, had been doing more and more “boys club” activities for months now with the other guys. They all went out golfing last week for god’s sake.

Donna

I have only been here two months.

Mike

Lawyers golf together.

Carolyn

What about the fact the two of you get lunch? Every. Day.

Mike

He is mentoring me. You and Rosano get lunch.

Carolyn

Rosano and I work during that lunch.

Mike

How do you know me and Reese don’t work?

Carolyn

I know Reese gave you a pay raise you didn’t deserve.

Mike

That’s privileged information—

Carolyn

For a privileged person. Jesus it’s hot. (fans herself)

MIKE wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead.

Mike

God you always get back to that talk lately. You used to just be a hard working lawyer. Now you constantly bring up this shit. It’s annoying.

Donna

Carolyn you and Rosano are friendly. Did you want Rosano to have the lead on this case?

Carolyn

Yes. Honestly. I was working to get rid of him. But I wasn’t going to shoot anyone, I love Reese and I am very very pro-gun control.

Donna

The gun is missing anyway, according to the police.

Mike

Did you sleep with one of them too for that information?

Carolyn

Nice. I’m getting slut shamed by the easiest guy I’ve ever met. I didn’t sleep with you for information, I slept with you because the first five idiots I called didn’t pick up.

Mike

What a model of feminism you are.

Carolyn

My colleague needs a lesson in workplace interactions.

Donna

I would agree. But I have two more questions and you can go.

Carolyn

You know I can stay and help.

Donna

I would like that. But Mike is an excellent assistant.

Mike

Excuse me?

Carolyn

Fair enough. Assist the intern.

Donna

Where did you come from just now? Rosano’s office?

Carolyn

Yeah. Uh. We were on the phone with Monica. She hasn’t been happy with Reese’s work. He scolded her a month ago for riling people up on Twitter. That’s why we’ve been getting death threats.

Mike

Not exactly the model client.

Donna

So you were just in Rosano’s office?

Carolyn

Yes.

Donna

With your jacket on?

Carolyn

Yeah.

Donna

You weren’t as sweaty. Rosano must be hiding a nice backup fan.

Carolyn

Haha. Yes. Don’t tell anyone.

Donna

Why was Monica in your office this evening when Reese went downstairs? I didn’t see her come in the front.

Carolyn

(taken aback) How did you know she was here?

Donna

I was doing file work for the partner next door.

Carolyn

I— she. We… (a beat) I forgot you work here. Uh, we snuck her in. She wanted to talk to Rosano and me alone.

Mike

You were going to just shut Reese out from his own client?

Carolyn

I’m being honest now aren’t I? I have nothing to hide. Monica wanted to get rid of Reese and the other guys the night before the case. We tried to talk her down—

Mike

Look who’s privileged now. You had a girls sleepover club meeting the night before trial?

Carolyn

Unfortunately not the kind you’re into, douchebag.

Donna

Carolyn you may go. Send in Ms. Rosano.

Carolyn

Fine by me.

CAROLYN gets up and walks away. Her heels disappear down the hall.

Mike

Obnoxious.

DONNA rotates the images on the screen with her hand. They rearrange and focus on Monica Jeffords’ photo. An ordinary middle class woman.

Mike

Member of several feminist activist groups. That’s usually a red flag.

Donna

How so?

Mike

They tend to be more paranoid about a lot of issues. See sexism everywhere.

Donna

How do you know?

Mike

I just do. Feminists aren’t bad people. But all of a sudden some guy at work befriends another guy and they’re all talking about sexism. Or one guy flirts with his coworker and it’s harassment. It’s all distracting white noise.

Donna

Hmm. Do you feel this perspective may have hurt your ability to help Monica as a client?

Mike

No. If anything, being a male counterbalance to Lisa and Carolyn and Rosano was a good thing. It made them realize, too late, that the evidence wouldn’t be good enough for the jury.


Scene 5

The EMPLOYEES are still arguing, if more exhausted and less active. The COPS sweat too.

Male Employee

When can we go home?

Cop #1

They’re fixing an issue with the security cameras.

Female Employee

At this point I’d be fucking happy if that shooter came back and killed us all.

Female Employee

Oh my God that is an awful thing to say.

Male Employee

Shut UP.

Male Employee

Hey man, don’t tell her to shut up!

Arguing. A COP suddenly rushes in. He runs over to DETECTIVE MURRAY. They begin to talk. DETECTIVE MURRAY rushes off stage. The arguing ceases as they watch.

Cop #1

Dana, what happened?

Cop #2

Somebody was caught trying to get into the building through the park.


Scene 6

Mike

I didn’t know a legal career would be this exciting. I’m on the edge of my seat like anyone else.

Donna

Unfortunately this isn’t a detective story. The honest to god truth is often very very mundane.

ROSANO walks in wearing her suit from before. She waves politely, then sits.

Rosano

Thank you for helping, Donna.

Donna

Of course. Aren’t you hot?

Rosano

I am. Just not as much as everyone else.

Donna

I need a few details about the Monica Jeffords case. You’ve been fairly balanced.

Rosano

As much as anyone can be when a police officer is alleged to be abusing his power.

Donna

Yes. Did you feel Reese was favoring other associates? Neglecting his duties?

Rosano

No. I would’ve done things differently than him, but he’s a good lawyer.

Donna

And Monica has been uncooperative?

Rosano

Monica felt we spent too much time trying to…keep her from making this a press circus. She felt more activism would stir up public sentiment. Reese argued that this would make the case more difficult to argue and would tie her name to scandal too early in life.

Donna

Were you suspicious Monica may have lied about the assault?

Rosano

I always keep my doubts and opinions as open as possible.

Donna

Mmm. An open door policy is good.

DONNA suddenly kicks a wall. It opens up into a DOOR! MIKE jumps.

Mike

What the fuck—

Donna

I chose this office because I noticed it had a structural problem. It used to be part of a separate office before we bought it. A hedge fund. The CEO wanted his own staircase to the back park so he could hide from clients. He put a door in this office. And a door in another one. Yours.

Rosano

I think you’re mistaken.

Donna

So you don’t mind us going in to see it?

Rosano

Fine. Yes. I have a secret door. I’ve been going outside to cool off since the AC’s been broken for hours. Carolyn knows about it. It’s how we snuck Monica in. Other than that we barely use it. Notice I haven’t left the premises.

Mike

Except to run downstairs, shoot your partner, and leave.

Rosano

Careful, McCoy. I’m still your boss.

Donna

Ms. Rosano would be on the security cameras entering the building.

Rosano

Carolyn has vouched I was with Monica in a meeting.

Mike

I’m sure Carolyn would vouch you were feeding starving children too.

Rosano

Are you questioning me?

Mike

Yes.

Donna

Did you know about the evidence call?

Rosano

What evidence call?

Donna

The one you tapped.

A beat.

Donna

You placed a tap on Reese’s phone.

DONNA takes the phone out from under the table.

Donna

This is Reese’s phone. There’s a bug in there.

Rosano

I didn’t do that.

Donna

The bug was in a package I delivered to your office two weeks ago. The tag is still on it. Part of any intern’s tasks is to deliver mailroom packages—

Rosano

—I know I know—

Donna

I’m guessing you wanted to know if he was working with the police? His close friends include Detective Murray.

Rosano

Yes. I wanted to see if he was…negotiating. Reese had friends, government workers, businessmen, he strategized and gave people, like your guy Detective Murray, limited information to get a lot of information out of them. I wanted to see if he leaked any of our case info about Peter Damon without us knowing.

Donna

To discredit him. So you could have the job.

Rosano

No!

Donna

No?

Rosano

No. Because I had told him to stop doing it. Reese had a God complex. He wanted to do things the way they were when he built this firm. He wanted to network and work around and protect Monica’s privacy. And she blew it open by tweeting about it, obviously. His strategy wasn’t working. What we needed was more effort put into getting witnesses for Monica’s story, not working with the damn corrupt police.

Mike

There were no witnesses.

Rosano

I’m glad I tapped his phone. Because there was a witness. Who came forward because of Monica’s tweet.

Mike

Or likely a trap to get him out into the open to shoot him.

Rosano

Reese wasn’t doing his best.

Mike

He was great, he built this firm.

Rosano

He gave you a raise over a more deserving associate so you wouldn’t go to another firm. He wanted a friend.

Mike

He gave me a raise because of the Kleiman case.

Rosano

No. I was in the meeting. You were talking about leaving. Reese needed you to stay. He was losing his divorce battle, he needed a friend. I…have given Reese a break long enough. Monica was a client who was a victim. I had to work hard for our client. I will not be faulted for that.

A beat.

Donna

DONNA: You may go.

She leaves.

Mike

Why am I in here helping you?

Donna

You wanted a break from the chaos.

Mike

That’s why I came here. Not why you want me here.

DONNA looks at him for a moment.

Donna

The suspects are more themselves around you. You, like John Reese, represent the boys’ club that Lisa, Carolyn, Monica, Ellen Rosano, all my prime suspects, detest.

Mike

So you wanted me to be…like a foil?

Donna

This isn’t a detective novel Mike.

Mike

I know—

Donna

Foils are for characters, not human beings.

Mike

You get what I mean!

Donna

I do! I just wanted to…make a joke.

A beat. No one laughs. DONNA proceeds cautiously.

Donna

I had to eliminate those suspects. Why don’t you take a seat. And, for safety reasons, can you remove the gun from your bag?

Blackout.


Scene 7

DETECTIVE MURRAY walks back in.

Female Employee

Who was it?

Male Employee

The shooter?

Murray

A woman was caught trying to leave through the park, we’ve detained and questioned her. Everything is fine.

Male Employee

So when the fuck is the AC going back on?


Scene 8

The back office. The screen behind them just has a photo of MIKE. Nothing else.

Mike

I don’t have—

Donna

You have no reason to bring a bag in here other than that. For safety reasons, remove it.

A beat. MIKE dumps his bag. The gun falls out.

Donna

Why did you remove a gun from a crime scene?

A beat.

Mike

Reese asked me to.

Donna

Why?

Mike

It’s.. his gun. Private carry. He doesn’t have a license. He didn’t want that getting out. Imagine, an unlicensed carrier, the partners could get him removed from the firm.

Donna

And you decided to conceal this gun and bring it into a room with me? And your colleagues?

Mike

I—

Donna

And you suspiciously found Reese 5 minutes after he was shot. It’s far more likely you ran down the stairs and shot him. Then pocketed the gun and told everyone you found him.

Mike

No!

Donna

You were his friend, yes. So it’s unlikely. I’ll trust what you say. But all the evidence points to you.

MIKE looks at her. DONNA looks back. MIKE, strangely, softens.

Mike

No. (long beat) I— was so worried. He was gonna go kill himself. Yesterday, his wife got custody. He was acting weird all day, and I saw this note in his office—

DONNA pulls it out of her pocket.

Donna

Yes.

Mike

How’d you— never mind.

Donna

It’s a letter to his wife, asking, no telling, that if he doesn’t get to see his children he would kill himself.

Mike

I thought he left to do that…you have— have to believe me.

Donna

I do. I think. You were his friend. He trusted you. Despite being…a douchebag.

Mike

Anyway, some asshole shot him first. Left him there.

Donna

The gun was in his bag?

Mike

Yeah. Didn’t have time to get it out and defend himself I guess.

We hear footsteps down the hall. They build. And build.

Donna

And we have one last person to investigate.

DETECTIVE MURRAY walks in.

Murray

Did I leave my phone in here?

Blackout.

LIGHTS UP (dim) on the law firm LAWYERS fighting, squabbling, pushing each other, shouting, the COPS trying to step in.

They are offstage, but the NOISE of the fighting is still right on our eardrums, just off the edges, as LIGHTS UP on DONNA, MURRAY, and MIKE.

MURRAY’s photo is on the wall.

Donna

Have you fixed the AC yet?

Murray

We haven’t been able to.

Donna

We’re lucky no one passed out.

Murray

There’s a breeze outside, plenty of water.

Donna

Your phone received a call from a blocked number before the shooting. I checked it.

Murray

…Yes.

Donna

What did the person say on the call?

A beat. MURRAY thinks. Wipes sweat from his brow.

Mike

Why— would he shoot Reese?

Murray

I didn’t.

Donna

Did you call the person who did?

Murray

The caller said an attempt would be made on John Reese’s life by someone he knew. It’s no secret John Reese and I are old friends. Twenty minutes later we got the 911 call. I didn’t want to bring up any more police/lawyer tensions here; I know Reese’s friendship with me was a sore point. Especially with the heat he was taking for the Jeffords case with that Tweetter crap.

Donna/Mike

Twitter.

Donna

Did you recognize the voice of the caller?

Murray

No, it happened so fast, I barely registered it. It was a man though.

Donna

Hmm. Let’s go into the lion’s den.

Blackout.


Scene 9

The LAWYERS are now arguing with the COPS. Back and forth.

Cop #1

You’re trying to ruin Damon’s reputation!

Lawyer #1

We are going for the evidence.

Female Employee

So Monica’s a liar?

Cop #2

Yes.

DONNA enters. MURRAY whistles loudly. People quiet down.

Donna

It is midnight. We can all go home.

Rosano

Did you find out who shot Reese?

Murray

Mr. Reese is, thankfully, safe and recovering in the hospital.

DONNA pulls an envelope out.

Mike

Seriously? The Clue envelope again?

Donna

(hands it to him) Read the name.

MIKE unfolds it. Slowly.

Mike

…John Reese?

Donna

The shooter…was Reese himself.

A beat.

Carolyn

He shot himself? Why?

Donna

Presumably not to spend another minute in this law firm with everyone at each other’s throats. At least that’s what I’d do.

A beat. As DONNA says this, LIGHTS UP on REESE walking around the office. Yellow afternoon daylights. The external characters jump into and out of the flashback as if it was earlier that day at the office.

Donna

No one was prepared for court tomorrow. Reese likely felt the outcome was bleak because of the lack of evidence. Monica’s tweeting put the firm in the public eye. If she lost the case, it’d look bad for the firm. And the liberal associates, who favor Miss Jeffords so vehemently, would push to appeal while the conservative associates would push to settle. An accident harming one of the client’s lawyers would extend the case and give time to create a new strategy. As I said to Mike earlier, it’s hard to find new evidence on the eve of a case.

Mike

Yeah, no shit. This isn’t an episode of My Cousin Vinny.

Carolyn

My Cousin Vinny is a movie.

Donna

Reese fabricated a phone call about new evidence.

REESE gets on his phone, then hangs up.

Donna

He made sure Lisa knew about it so he had a reason to leave but not a reason to inform everyone.

REESE speaks with LISA, walks off with his bag, LISA walks over to CAROLYN and speaks.

Donna

He called Detective Murray about the attempt on his life to ensure he would lock down the office and get a special extension by the judge, then shot himself in the stairwell.

REESE takes the gun out, and BLACKOUT. A gunshot in the dark.

Donna

Either Reese wanted the case rescheduled, or he wanted Ellen Rosano, who was eager about taking point tomorrow, to take his place and take the blame for the outcome.

A beat.

Mike

He shot himself…to extend a court deadline?

Donna

Not the momentous end everyone wanted I’m guessing. But the conclusion is often more mundane than the hype.

Carolyn

You think John Reese would rather shoot himself than have to defend a case?

Donna

I know that John Reese would rather shoot himself than defend this case because he did shoot himself so he didn’t have to defend this case. He’s out of surgery and he’ll be incapacitated for at least a week.

Mike

What about the evidence?

Donna

I assume it’s gone or never existed in the first place.

Blackout.

Female Lawyer

I told you there wasn’t enough evidence!

Lawyers

SHUT UP!


Epilogue

Outside the law firm. DONNA and MURRAY leave through the doors. A breeze flies through. They enjoy it gratefully. DONNA reaches into her pocket and takes out the USB full of evidence, gives to MURRAY.

Murray

Thanks. How long did you have this?

Donna

Ellen Rosano had it in her desk.

Murray

Ah. Her girl was the one we caught sneaking out into the park.

Donna

The evidence caller was real. Rosano went down, met with the caller, retrieved it, and came back up in time for questioning. We have a minute until she figures out it’s missing.

Murray

And you’re giving this evidence to me, a cop, and not your firm?

Donna

I’m not giving it to you. You found it on a hunch.

MURRAY lights a cigarette. DONNA puts her suit jacket back on.

Murray

So? What does it show? Is Monica lying?

Donna

I don’t know, I didn’t watch.

Murray

After all that you didn’t watch?!

Donna

It doesn’t concern me.

Murray

Do you think Reese knew what the evidence was?

Donna

If the video shows Monica is innocent, then Reese shot himself to protect the police force’s reputation. If the video shows Peter Damon is innocent, Reese shot himself to avoid incriminating his client.

Murray

What a mess.

Donna

I’ve decided I’m quitting law.

Murray

Really? Because of how awful your social justice firm panned out to be?

Donna

A loss of faith in the objectivity of the legal system? No. The amount of debt I have. Another year of law school would definitely put me under.

Murray

I’m sorry about that.

DONNA realizes something, becomes uncharacteristically soft for a minute, confiding in MURRAY.

Donna

I’ll never fit in.

Murray

Where? Here? There are other firms—

Donna

Anywhere. I solved this case, as always…because I stay away— it’s more comfortable. Ten feet from everyone. I observe. I can see things. I can work. I’m not going to fight with my coworkers or have secret affairs or, well, anything.

Murray

Does that really bother you?

Donna

I don’t…think so. This was the first case I’d worked in months. And I was the happiest I’ve been in months.

Murray

I think that answers your question. Say hi to your dad for me.

They part ways.

Donna

One thing, Detective Murray.

Murray

Yes.

Donna

Next time I’m working on a case, please keep the AC on.

Murray

Thought it’d push a confession.

Donna

It didn’t. It just made everyone miserable.

MURRAY puts on his hat.

Murray

Yang.

Donna

Watson.

 

End of play.

 





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